So YouTube decided to change up its algorithm again. The last big algorithm change came in 2011 when YouTube shifted the emphasis from views to minutes watched, which as Ross O’Donovan of the YouTube channel RubberNinja pointed out, screwed over short form content creators on the platform.
They fucked me and all my animator friends in 2011 and big surprise they’ve come to fuck the rest of you. https://t.co/wTEhTBtmiE
— Ross O’Donovan (@RubberNinja) November 29, 2016
Basically the new algorithm has placed a new emphasis on engagement; aka likes, comments, and video clicks. A move which Ethan Klein of the YouTube channel h3h3 productions criticized as, quote, “2008 called, it wants its shitty YouTube back.”
*NEW VIDEO* YouTube Is Not Being Honest with Ushttps://t.co/6avo4rMTMk
Let’s start getting some answers
— Ethan Klein (@h3h3productions) November 29, 2016
There are problems with this system. For example, yes as Klein remarked, this is basically a reversion to the old YouTube dependent on click bait and begging for likes. There will definitely be a drop in quality on YouTube, but there will also be a drop in 10 minute long videos that should only be 2 minutes long but the creator is dragging it out as long as they can to get those sweet, sweet minutes watched time.
The reason for this change is theorized to be for purely commercial reasons, especially given how concerned YouTube has recently become over whether or not they’re “advertiser-friendly” and the fact that a more engaged audience means more people willing to buy a product that someone is selling them.
YouTube, as usual, has no comment on the subject as of this writing.
However, despite the initial backlash, I actually have some positive-neutral expectations for the change. As a creator myself who focuses on small form content and has a lovely engaged audience, this change is right up my alley. But I also have yet to receive a single check from YouTube. My livelihood doesn’t depend on it. There are a lot of creators that I’ve been following for years whom I love and would be absolutely devastated if their channels get hit by this change. (Game Grumps, my bby, don’t ever leave me.)
So good things about this change:
- Live-streaming will never be better on YouTube. YouTube has been placing an insane amount of emphasis on live-streaming to the point where I even found a small margin of channel growth after only streaming for an hour one night. That might be the future of gaming on YouTube, which sucks because most of the YouTube I (and many other people) watch is Let’s Plays (Game Grumps), but with the popularity of Twitch, YouTube could definitely be gearing up to be a main competitor with them which would mean diminishing its ‘Let’s Play’ section and forcing those gamers to go into live streaming on YouTube Gaming.
- Sketches and parodies, things that can be shareable on any platform and make advertisers happy, will be making a huge comeback so shout-out to those small form creators who stuck it out during the minutes-watched emphasis period and will finally be able to make their comeback.
3. We might actually see some bigger creators interacting with their audience more. That’s been the way of life for smaller creators for ages now, but bigger creators have fallen by the wayside on that front in favor of milking those sweet, sweet sponsorship deals and doing whatever else big YouTubers do instead of taking five minutes to chat with their fans in the comments/tweets/Facebook posts/etc.
Now for the bad parts of this change:
- Yeah gaming channels will take a hit. Most huge YouTubers will take a hit. The overall quality of YouTube will take a hit. We’ll be going back to the dark ages of viral videos, clickbaits, and likes-for-likes that defined the pre-2011 YouTube. If you think there are assholes on YouTube now, oh man. Wait until the next wave of steroid infused monkey who knows how to work the word ‘sexy’ and make a video at least two minutes long hits. Really anything that would go viral on Facebook, which we all know how good those videos are.
- Speaking of Facebook, you know that problem where parody accounts who can’t come up with their own content just steal YouTuber’s content and market it as their own? Oh yeah. That’s going to get way worse if we have a boom in short form content and it’s going to hurt twice as much.
- As Ethan Klein said in his video, there’s going to be a huge influx of people using gift cards to lure people to like, comment, and subscribe. There’s just going to be a huge influx of creators preying on their audience for likes, comments, and subscriptions. It’s going to be like a Google+ YouTube promo page up in here.
Only time will tell whether the good will outweigh the bad with these changes. For now, the moral of the story seems to be, as usual, YouTube is crap at explaining their changes to their creators and also everyone likes freaking out at every little change on the platform.
I spoke with three creators on the platform about why finding success on YouTube is important and made a mini-documentary out of it. If you could check it out and let me know what you think, that would be great. If I missed something in this blog post that you would like me to address, let me know via Twitter because WordPress comments are a little wonky to reply to.